A Different Sort of Sticker Shock

Galya Ruffer owns a Toyota Prius, the hybrid that is all the rage among environmentally conscious consumers. But she has a beef.

"It's not near the mileage that I thought I was going to get," she told ABC News in an interview outside her Highland Park, Ill., home. She said the sticker read something like 50 or 60 miles per gallon in city driving, but the reality for her car is more like 35 mpg.

"I don't know that I could say that I had sticker shock, but more a bit of a taste of reality," she said.

Across the country, starting for all 2008 models, new test results for mileage compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency will grace the side windows of cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs.

Very new test results.

For example, whereas Toyota's Prius could boast of 60 mpg in city driving, the new figure is a more realistic 48 mpg -- still good but a tad less stratospheric.

Toyota dealers acknowledge they were selling cars with mileage figures that stretched their capacities just a bit.

"People were upset because they weren't truly getting the real gas mileage on the vehicles," said Brian Weinberg of Grossinger's Toyota in Chicago.

"Hopefully, with this new gas thing that's coming out, it will be a true reading for Toyota and all these manufacturers." Indeed, the EPA test results include all vehicles, not just hybrids. None had fuel efficiency ratings that increased.

Comparing the test results year to year, as well as model to model, can be found at www.fueleconomy.gov.

"Everyone is a lot worse than we thought," said David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "not just hybrids." The EPA test had not been revised since the mid 1980s, before hybrids existed. The old test was something less than "real world conditions."

No sudden starts or quick acceleration. No use of air conditioning. No bad weather driving or speeding over 55 mph. "We wanted to provide consumers with the most up-to-date information so that they could make an informed choice," explained EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. "That's why we changed the kind of studies that are done.

"The window stickers of 20 years ago obviously don't reflect the driving conditions of today, but they were still a good guide for consumers."

Friedman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there is a silver lining to all of this.

"We really need to use this as a call to action to get and require better fuel economy for all of our cars and trucks," he said. Meanwhile, back at Grossinger's Toyota, general manager Weinberg is not anxious.

"It won't hurt Prius sales at all because people are intrigued by the hybrid technology," he said. Even with a 15 mpg decrease in fuel efficiency?

"I think people will still come in and buy the Prius, even with the corrected mileage," he said. "It's kind of like a cult following." And as he spoke, several brand new Priuses were backing off a car trailer parked outside before heading for the showroom floor.

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